Retailers today are moving more and more towards mobile points-of-sale and away from the traditional cash register. For today’s post, though, let’s take a step back in time to 19th century Ohio, to the time when the first cash register was invented.

James Jacob Ritty, born on October 29th, 1836, opened a saloon in Ohio in 1879 and soon became troubled when he noticed his employees occasionally pocketing cash. He wasn’t sure how to prevent this from happening but he needed a solution if his business was to thrive. While taking a trip to Europe by steamboat, James took note of a device attached to the ship’s propeller that counted the number of revolutions. He wondered if something similar could be invented to track the number of transactions at his saloon. Upon his return to Ohio, James and his brother, John, started work on and later patented “Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier” – what we know today as the cash register.

A picture of a cash register built in Ohio in 1904.

An Antique Crank-Operated Cash Register in France

These early registers were mechanical and did not include any kind of receipt-printing mechanism. Employees were required to record every transaction on the register, and when the total button was pressed the drawer would open (cash could be inserted inside) and a bell would ring. This bell signaled the manager that a sale had taken place.

After the Ritty brothers received their patent, James Ritty sold his cash register to Jacob H. Eckert who later started the National Manufacturing Company.

In 1884 this company was sold to John Patterson. Patterson renamed the company to the National Cash Register, and improved on the Ritty register – he added a paper roll, thereby creating receipts.

The cash register was first motorized in 1906 by Charles Kettering, an employee of the National Cash Register.

The complete history of cash registers is quite fascinating, but in the interest of time and space, I will give all y’all a link where you can read more: History of the Cash Register.

Cash registers have come a long way since that first patented register, but the concept remains the same – retailers need a way to track sales and record payments. Now, though retailers are beginning to move away from the traditional register to mobile point-of-sale solutions, we will always remember where it all began – with Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier!